20th Century Quotes on the Fourth Amendment

"The efforts of the courts and their officials to bring the guilty to punishment, praiseworthy as they are, are not to be aided by the sacrifice of those great principles established be years of endeavor and suffering which have resulted in their embodiment in the fundamental law of the land."

Justice William R. Day
U.S. Supreme Court
1914
Library Topic

"In Adams v. New York, this court said that the 4th Amendment was intended to secure the citizen in person and property against unlawful invasion of the sanctity of his home by officers of the law, acting under legislative or judicial sanction. This protection is equally extended to the action of the government and officers of the law acting under it. To sanction such proceedings would be to affirm by judicial decision a manifest neglect, if not an open defiance, of the prohibitions of the Constitution, intended for the protection of the people against such unauthorized action."

Justice William R. Day
U.S. Supreme Court
1914
Library Topic

"The point of the Fourth Amendment which often is not grasped by zealous officers is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate, instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime. Any assumption that evidence sufficient to support a magistrate's disinterested determination to issue a search warrant will justify the officers in making a search without a warrant would reduce the Amendment to a nullity, and leave the people's homes secure only in the discretion of police officers. Crime, even in the privacy of one's own quarters, is, of course, of grave concern to society, and the law allows such crime to be reached on proper showing. The right of officers to thrust themselves into a home is also a grave concern, not only to the individual, but to a society which chooses to dwell in reasonable security and freedom from surveillance. When the right of privacy must reasonably yield to the right of search is, as a rule, to be decided by a judicial officer, not by a policeman or government enforcement agent.

There are exceptional circumstances in which, on balancing the need for effective law enforcement against the right of privacy, it may be contended that a magistrate's warrant for search may be dispensed with. But this is not such a case. No reason is offered for not obtaining a search warrant except the inconvenience to the officers and some slight delay necessary to prepare papers and present the evidence to a magistrate. These are never very convincing reasons and, in these circumstances, certainly are not enough to bypass the constitutional requirement. No suspect was fleeing or likely to take flight. The search was of permanent premises, not of a movable vehicle. No evidence or contraband was threatened with removal or destruction, except perhaps the fumes which we suppose in time will disappear. But they were not capable at any time of being reduced to possession for presentation to court. The evidence of their existence before the search was adequate and the testimony of the officers to that effect would not perish from the delay of getting a warrant.

If the officers in this case were excused from the constitutional duty of presenting their evidence to a magistrate, it is difficult to think of a case in which it should be required."

Justice Robert H. Jackson
U.S. Supreme Court
February 2, 1948
Library Topic

"In any event, we cannot forgive the requirements of the Fourth Amendment in the name of law enforcement. This is no formality that we require today, but a fundamental rule that has long been recognized as basic to the privacy of every home in America. ...it is not asking too much that officers be required to comply with the basic command of the Fourth Amendment before the innermost secrets of one's home or office are invaded. Few threats to liberty exist which are greater than that posed by the use of eavesdropping devices. Some may claim that, without the use of such devices, crime detection in certain areas may suffer some delays, since eavesdropping is quicker, easier, and more certain. However, techniques and practices may well be developed that will operate just as speedily and certainly and -- what is more important -- without attending illegality."

Justice Tom C. Clark
U.S. Supreme Court
1967
Library Topic

"For the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection. But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected."

Justice Potter Stewart
U.S. Supreme Court
1967
Library Topic

"And, just as the state, in this initiative and more generally, threatens privacy, the market protects it. Consider the market institution of money. Money must be portable, durable, and limited in quantity but the value of money lies not only in what it can buy, but also in its protection of privacy. Under a barter regime, everyone I buy from knows what I produce, and everyone I sell to knows what I consume. In the cash economy, only my customers know what I produce and only those from whom I purchase know what I consume. That is why the black-market cash economies of the once-totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe were synonymous with the bits and pieces of freedom that survived there."

Joseph S. Fulda
The Freeman, Volume 46, Issue 12
Foundation for Economic Education
December 1996
Library Topic

"It ought to be abundantly clear that in America, with rare exception, government officials cannot constitutionally enter a home without either the resident's explicit approval or a valid search warrant issued by a judge who has good reason to issue it. Perhaps the inspectors of Kalamazoo believe that renters don't have the same rights as homeowners or that end-running the Constitution is all right if it's for a tenant's own good. That brings to mind a remark attributed to philosopher Henry David Thoreau more than a century ago: 'If I knew for certain that a man was coming to my home to do me good, I would run for my life.'"

Lawrence W. Reed
The Freeman, Volume 46, Issue 1
Foundation for Economic Education
January 1996
Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits
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Commentary or Blog Post

"The Obama administration defended a warrantless wiretapping law before the Supreme Court on Monday."

Ever wonder how the law adapts to technology that makes it harder or easier for police to search and seize suspected criminals? Orin Kerr posits that an Equilibrium-adjustment exists. "Courts respond to the new facts by trying to restore the old level of protection. If a new technology or practice increased government power, courts ratchet up Fourth Amendment...

"With the arrests last week of 24 alleged terrorists in Britain, the government's legal tools for fighting Al Qaeda are up for debate once again. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggests that Congress emulate Britain's law allowing extended pretrial detention of suspects. Others have observed that British law enforcement can more easily initiate...

"Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging misuse of the federal 'material witness' statute, which allows detention of a witness when 'it may become impracticable to secure the presence of the person by subpoena,' to hold terrorism suspects after 9/11. The case was brought by Abdullah al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen who was detained for 16 days...

"The US Supreme Court agreed to examine whether a group of US-based lawyers, activists, and journalists can challenge a Bush-era law authorizing broad surveillance overseas."

"In America, we're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Life, liberty, and property can't be taken from you unless you're convicted of a crime.

Your life and liberty may still be safe, but have you ever gone to a government surplus auction? Consumer reporters like me tell people, correctly, that they are great places to...

"Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer...

"Boalt Hall Law Professor and Visiting AEI Scholar John Yoo writes in a short piece on the AEI website that we should consider using data mining to pursue terrorists. He makes at least two errors: one historical and one statistical.

Discussing the recent vogue for making U.S. law more like Britain's, Yoo writes:

...

"Critics say the Bush-era law designed to collect foreign intelligence intrudes on the constitutionally protected privacy and free speech rights of US citizens. The US Supreme Court hears the case Monday."

"In June, the Supreme Court decided that Detroit police did not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of a drug dealer named Booker Hudson when they entered his home in August 1998 only five seconds after announcing their presence at his door. Hudson's lawyers argued that--although he had a loaded gun hidden in the couch next to him--police should have waited to...

The exclusionary rule prevents police from using evidence obtained illegally. While this rule creates an incentive for police to respect law-abiding citizens' Fourth Amendment rights, it also allows criminals to get away, scott-free. Radley Balko,...

"CNET has learned that the FBI has formed a Domestic Communications Assistance Center, which is tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications."

"Providers of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) solutions have the benefit of being able to monitor a program's surveillance and security. The FBI is taking it a step forward, though, as it recently requested that VoIP providers voluntarily support backdoor access to users' phone calls."

"The FBI director and a Republican congressman sketched out a far-reaching plan this week for warrantless surveillance of the Internet.

During a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing, the FBI's Robert Mueller and Rep. Darrell Issa of California talked about what amounts to a two-step approach. Step 1 involves asking Internet service providers to open their networks to the...

"The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 provides critically important authority for the U.S. Intelligence Community to acquire foreign intelligence information by targeting foreign persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States. It ensures that the Intelligence Community has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security."

In this article, Mr. Anthony illustrates how the surveillance powers granted under the Patriot Act have been used to circumvent traditional warrant procedure--even when the suspect had no real connection to terrorism. He argues that FISA and the Patriot Act run afoul of the Fourth Amendment. 

"Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), which expires at the end of the year."

"Today, in an 8-to-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that Arizona public school officials violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a 13-year-old eighth-grader when they subjected her to a strip search because they thought she might be hiding ibuprofen in her underwear.

As I've said before, this is the best result that...

"The Fourth Amendment asserts that the 'right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.' For more than a century after the founding, interpreting this was relatively straightforward: A 'search' was defined along the lines of common law trespass. If police came on to...

"Given the opportunity to clarify existing law and confirm that American citizens are not subject to indefinite military detention at the order of the president — Congress punted.

After a debate in which key members seriously contemplated empowering the president to 'Gitmo-ize' Americans suspected of terrorist activity, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 leaves the question...

"Back in June, the American Civil Liberties Union launched a new Web hub called Spy Files, which promises to be an invaluable resource for those of us who make a point of watching the watchers. Probably the most interesting document available on the site at launch was a thorough state by state survey of law enforcement surveillance of protected political and...

"In 1961, in Mapp v. Ohio, the Supreme Court reversed Ms. Mapp's conviction and adopted the exclusionary rule as a national standard. The court acknowledged that the rule might let some criminals go free, but it underscored that it was more important to compel the nation's police forces to obey the law.

The court carved out...

"Over at the Weekly Standard, William Tucker notes gleefully that the exclusionary rule is but one Bush Supreme Court appointment away from extinction.

Tim Lynch's 1998 Policy Analysis is about all you'll need to thoroughly refute Tucker's general thesis. But two specific passages in Tucker's broadside on the Fourth Amendment are...

"The top-secret PRISM program allows the U.S. intelligence community to gain access from nine Internet companies to a wide range of digital information, including e-mails and stored data, on foreign targets operating outside the United States. The program is court-approved but does not require individual warrants. Instead, it operates under a broader authorization from federal judges who oversee the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Some documents describing the program were first released by The Washington Post on June 6. The newly released documents below give additional details about how the program operates, including the levels of review and supervisory control at the NSA and FBI. The documents also show how the program interacts with the Internet companies. These slides, annotated by The Post, represent a selection from the overall document, and certain portions are redacted."

"The Obama Administration this week released its predecessor's post-9/11 legal memoranda in the name of 'transparency,' producing another round of feel-good Bush criticism. Anyone interested in President Obama's actual executive-power policies, however, should look at his position on warrantless wiretapping. Dick Cheney must be smiling."

Three parts of the Patriot Act were recently voted upon for re-authorization. Julian Sanchez details what these provisions provide, why they are an abridgment of fundamental rights, and why they are not necessary.

"When Christian Taylor stopped by the Sprint store in Daly City, Calif., last November, he was planning to buy around 30 BlackBerry handhelds.

But a Sprint employee on the lookout for fraud grew suspicious about the address and other details relating to Taylor's company, 'Hype Univercity,' and called the police. Taylor was...

"When the police or other Executive Branch officers conduct searches under civil and environmental statutes, settled Fourth Amendment jurisprudence provides them with substantially more constitutional authority to search private businesses without a search warrant...

"Two Democratic senators urged the Obama administration Thursday to declassify secret court rulings that give the government far wider domestic spying powers under the Patriot Act than intended.

The 10-year-old measure, hastily adopted in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks, grants the government broad surveillance powers with little oversight that can be used domestically.

While...

Scully tackles the tricky subject of the exclusionary rule--the concept that evidence obtained through an unreasonable search and seizure cannot be used against a defendant. He argues that the exclusionary rule runs counter to the idea of justice. Justice, Matthew tells us, is punishing the guilty and exonerating the innocent.

...

"As long as surveillance technology keeps advancing, Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure law will continue to be a fascinating area to check in on from time to time.

Infared technology; satellite surveillance, bring it all on, we say.

The latest case on this front concerns, yes GPS technology....

"I will discuss the background of the foreign surveillance programs and the effect that the Court's decision in Clapper is likely to have on other national security challenges."

"The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court's conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of...

During President Clinton's impeachment trial, Special Investigator Kenneth Starr asked President Clinton specific, embarrassing questions regarding his relations with Ms. Lewinsky. Jeffrey Rosen points out the President should have pleaded the Fourth Amendment -- and we should too! He claims that the Fourth Amendment allows citizens to avoid answering "overly...

"The Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to the Fourth Amendment and individual liberty this week. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court said police officers can jail citizens for minor offenses without arrest warrants. The case, Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, lowers the constitutional threshold by which citizens can be deprived of their liberty."

"The Exclusionary Rule is available to a Defendant in a criminal case as a remedy for illegal searches that violate the rights set forth in the Fourth Amendment. When applicable, the rule dictates that the evidence illegally obtained must be excluded as evidence under the Fourth Amendment. See Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643. One important corollary...

This piece details two Supreme Court cases from 2008: Commonwealth of Virginia v. David Lee Moore and Arizona v. Gant. Both cases revolve around Fourth Amendment issues. According to the authors, these cases "demonstrate a subtle but...

Orin Kerr finds it odd that the government chose not to invoke national security to justify seizing Al-Kidd. He argues seizures must pass two thresholds. First, there must be probable cause. Second, there must be a pressing government interest. In this case, Mr. Kerr argues both planks would be met.

"Conservative lawyering has aspired to create rules that restrain the ad hoc policymaking power of judges. The idea is that judges, ensconced among leatherbound books in oak-paneled chambers, don't make good legislators. They can't assess changing facts on the ground or balance difficult policy tradeoffs. What's needed, conservative legal theorists tell us, is a...

"For the first few years I had her, I was impressed by my late dog Harper's uncanny ability to assess people's character. She hated every crappy landlord and bad roommate. Barked at them. Snarled at them. Wouldn't go near them. But if I brought home a date I liked, Harper, a Shar Pei/Labrador mix, would curl up right next to the woman and turn on the charm. It took...

"A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or...

Andrew McCarthy argues Tea Party Republicans are mistaken for opposing the Patriot Act. He discusses three Patriot Act provisions Congress allowed to sunset claiming they did not represent an increase in federal power. Instead, they represent giving the FBI and other intelligence agencies the same power other police have had for a long time. He claims these...

"In one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech seen in quite some time, Tarek Menanna, an American Muslim, was convicted this week in a federal court in Boston and then sentenced yesterday to 17 years in prison. He was found guilty of supporting Al Qaeda (by virtue of translating Terrorists' documents into English and expressing 'sympathetic views'...

"In August a team of heavily armed Orange County, Florida, sheriff's deputies raided several black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Orlando area. There were more raids in September and October. According to the Orlando Sentinel, barbers and customers were held at gunpoint, some in handcuffs, while police turned the shops upside down. A total of nine shops...

"I've just gotten around to reading Orin Kerr's fine paper 'Applying the Fourth Amendment to the Internet: A General Approach.' Like most everything he writes on the topic of technology and privacy, it is thoughtful and worth reading. Here, from the abstract, are the main conclusions:

'First, the traditional physical distinction...

"One of the more extreme government abuses of the post-9/11 era targets U.S. citizens re-entering their own country, and it has received far too little attention. With no oversight or legal framework whatsoever, the Department of Homeland Security routinely singles out individuals who are suspected of no crimes, detains them and questions them at the airport, often for hours, when they return...

"The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed 'Perfect Citizen' to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

...

Some...

"We now have an extraordinary situation that reveals the impunity with which political elites commit the most egregious crimes, as well as the special privileges to which they explicitly believe they — and they alone — are entitled. That a large bipartisan cast of Washington officials got caught being paid substantial sums of money by an Iranian dissident group that is legally designated by...

Chart or Graph

This chart outlines a police officer's authority to detain, frisk, and arrest an individual under the Fourth Amendment.

"The Exclusionary Rule is available to a Defendant in a criminal case as a remedy for illegal searches that violate the rights set forth in the Fourth Amendment."

"This slide shows when each company joined the program, with Microsoft being the first, on Sept. 11, 2007, and Apple the most recent, in October 2012."

Analysis Report White Paper

"Although the [Fourth] Amendment’s text appears straightforward, the legal community has long debated precisely what that text means."

"This article examines the decisions in which a liberal majority on the Warren Court replaced traditional theories of the Fourth Amendment with new doctrines that weakened constitutional protections of privacy, property, and liberty."

"Landlords and tenants are not usually on the same side in the courtroom. But in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a group of tenants are standing up for their property rights and supporting their landlord against the City's inspection policy. It's a case with far-reaching implications that should concern every American."

"This Article offers a general framework for applying the Fourth Amendment to the Internet."

"Using encrypted Internet telephony as an example, this Article proposes a change to the NSA's internal guidelines that would prevent dissemination of information gained through the frustration of the reasonable privacy expectations of protected persons unless exigent circumstances or serious threats to national security were presented."

Daniel Solove addresses the issue of privacy in the Information Age. He claims the court has reverted to the discredited Olmstead Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

"At the command of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, I have often written about the need for students to understand why they are Americans — so they can act as informed citizens."

This piece features a debate between two legal scholars on the issue of whether or not such laws as the "Protect America Act of 2007" violate the Fourth Amendment rights of individuals.

"The Fourth Amendment protects reasonable expectations of privacy, but the Supreme Court has refused to provide a consistent explanation for what makes an expectation of privacy 'reasonable.'"

Much of the modern debate about the enforcement of the Fourth Amendment has focused on the wisdom of and constitutional necessity for the so-called exclusionary rule, under which evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is ordinarily inadmissible in a criminal trial. Conservatives often oppose the rule as not grounded in the Constitution, not a deterrent to police misconduct, and not helpful in the search for truth.

"If property is liberty’s other half, privacy is its guardian. The right to privacy is essential to the preservation of freedom for the simplest of reasons. If no one knows what I do, when I do it, and with whom I do it, no one can possibly interfere with it."

"The recent Supreme Court decision in Marshall V. Barlow offers businesses a Fourth Amendment shield against warrantless inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Although hailed by some business spokesmen as a great victory, the decision is unlikely to have much effect on OSHA enforcement."

One provision in the PATRIOT Act decreases the oversight the FBI needs for issuing National Security Letters. These letters require ISPs to provide information on their clients to the government. Patrick Garlinger explains why current Fourth Amendment jurisprudence fails to protect information hosted by a third party.

"Racial and religious profiling is inconsistent with a fundamental tenet of Fourth Amendment doctrine. In most circumstances, law enforcers must possess fact-based, particularized suspicion before they seize or search a person or property."

Thomas Davies argues that the Founders wrote the Fourth Amendment to prevent general warrants. He claims that an unreasonable search or seizure refers to the illegality of the act, and that what is illegal, in the founders mind, is general warrants.

"As courts have adapted the Fourth Amendment to modern life, a doctrine has grown up around it that is unnecessarily complex and ultimately unworkable. This has deprived the Fourth Amendment of strength and—especially since the attacks of September 11, 2001—allowed Americans' Fourth Amendment rights to recede."

This article provides a concise primer on Fourth Amendment "search and seizure" practices.

"'This is really a bill which, if enacted into law, will be [a longer] step in the direction of stopping terrorism than any other we have had before this Congress in a long time,' one of the bill's sponsors declared."

This article provides a brief summary of the Patriot Act. It explains the legislative background and methods used to pass this bill. Then, it explains the new powers created by the Patriot Act. It explains how these searches are fundamentally different then prior precedent.

This piece describes the effects Terry v. Ohio had on Fourth Amendment interpretation.

"I have found through experience that when one argues a case in the United States Supreme Court, it can be more than a bit difficult to put the resulting decision in perspective."

"Examined along several dimensions borrowed from the more robust scholarship on civil remedies, exclusion does not appear to constitute a clearly superior device to deter constitutional harms in comparison to damages."

"These days the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution means next to nothing."

Should the threat of terrorism override the rights protected by the Fourth Amendment? Or are these rights entangled in our national DNA, inextricably weaved into the US judicial system?

This paper describes several Justice Department memos written in the days following September 11th. In later years, their contents caused much fury and debate amongst the American public.

Clancy provides a detailed background of 18th century debates on warrants and the Fourth Amendment. He specifically focuses on John Adams' contributions.

"Since John Roberts Jr. became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, there has been a measurable decline in the number of cases addressing Fourth Amendment questions. This article examines the reasons for that decline and predicts the substantial elimination of Fourth Amendment litigation in the Roberts Court."

"The Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule has been the law of the land in all federal jurisdictions since 1914 ... and in all state jurisdictions since 1961. ... Yet critics continue to question the rule's constitutional pedigree."

This paper recounts the events surrounding would-be September 11th terrorist, Zacarias Moussaoui.

In this piece, the author uses the Patriot Act to explore how the Courts have frequently minimized the institutional protections offered by the Fourth Amendment.

"Historical sources indicate that the Framers were focused on a single, narrow problem: physical trespasses into houses by government agents. The Fourth Amendment was enacted to address this problem through a precise, bright-line rule."

Two million passengers weekly are pawed as if they were felons, though their only crime is catching a flight. And while even suspected murderers are not supposed to be searched without warrants, law-abiding passengers such as Carlos abandon this freedom when they enter an airport as surely as Dante's sinners abandon hope when they enter hell.

"In this article, I address only the legality of the NSA program, not the policy question whether the program is necessary and effective from a national-security perspective."

"In this article, Professor Clancy argues that the essential attribute of the Fourth Amendment's right of persons 'to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects' is the ability of the individual to exclude the government from unreasonably intruding into those specified objects."

Video/Podcast/Media

"National Security Agency whistle blowers Thomas Drake, former senior official; Kirk Wiebe, former senior analyst; and William Binney, former technical director, return to 'Viewpoint' to talk about their allegations that the NSA has conducted illegal domestic surveillance. All three men are providing evidence in a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against the NSA.

Drake says...

"A Federal judge ruled Thursday that the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping program is unconstitutional. But the Justice Department, citing the program's importance as an early warning system, has already announced that it plans to appeal this ruling. Cato Senior Fellow of Constitutional Studies, Robert Levy, discusses the meaning of this court's ruling."

"The Obama Administration recently argued in court that it can track your location using your cell phone, all day, every day, and never implicate your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Jim Harper, director of the Cato Institute's Information Policy Studies, says it's a troubling claim based on a poor understanding of privacy and of...

"The high court handled several cases dealing with the Fourth Amendment this term. Ilya Shapiro, Cato Senior Fellow of Constitutional Studies and Editor of Cato's Supreme Court Review comments."

"If a free society depends upon an informed citizenry exercising oversight of its government, then more people need to know how to handle themselves in a police encounter. Is cooperation always the best course of action? Or are there times to assert the constitutional right to refuse consent to a search of one's home or belongings? A new documentary film answers...

"Public historian J.L. Bell, legal scholars Frederick Lane and Joseph McEttrick, and Kurt Opsahl, discuss the historical origins of the protection against unreasonable search and seizure, as well as modern challenges to this long-cherished protection of our rights.

The protection against unreasonable governmental search and...

"The court heard oral arguments in Brendan MacWade v. Raymond Kelly. The outcome of the case would determine if New York City police could randomly search subway riders' bags or if such searches violated the Fourth Amendment constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure. The New York City police department began random searches of subway passengers'...

"Flex Your Rights' first film, BUSTED has become a cult classic. Humor and helpful tips combine to make this video a must-see for freedom lovers everywhere. Created by Flex Your Rights and narrated by retired ACLU director Ira Glasser, BUSTED realistically depicts the pressure and confusion of common police encounters.

In an...

Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the questions of due process, judicial process and the 4th Amendment. Since the Obama administration ordered the killing of American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, there has been substantial debate surrounding the constitutionality of such a power. Does every citizen deserve due process?

"The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed 'Perfect Citizen' to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program. The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government's chief...

In this video, Judge Andrew Napolitano and Neil Cavuto discuss the TSA's pat-down searches and their relevance to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches.

"A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral argument in Mayfield v. United States of America in the historic Pioneer Courthouse in downtown Portland, Oregon, on Thursday, February 5, 2009. The United States was appealing the ruling that two provisions of the Patriot Act dealing with searches and intelligence gathering violate the Fourth...

"In this exchange, we see former head of the NSA, General Michael Hayden, argue with reporter Jonathan Landay that the words 'probable cause' are not found in the Fourth Amendment."

"Down on the boardwalk, we interview a few young Americans to find out what they know about the Constitution of the United States. Can you answer the questions? Does it matter?"

"We ask moms on the street what they know about the Constitution. Can you answer the questions? Does it matter?"

In this video, Rand Paul and Judge Andrew Napolitano discuss the historical importance of the 4th Amendment, as well as its erosion today.

Senator Rand Paul on why he opposes the PATRIOT Act. Dr. Paul provides a historical background of the Fourth Amendment, discussing writs of assistance, John Adams, and James Otis. He explains why the Founding Fathers felt these protections were necessary, and how the PATRIOT Act violates these core principles.

In this provocative episode, Las Vegas magicians-turned-social commentators Penn Jillette and his silent partner Teller give their take on the American Justice System.

*Viewer discretion advised. Graphic language and visual material is not suited for children.*

"The Supreme Court yesterday handed down a ruling that further erodes the so-called 'Castle Doctrine,' that your home is your castle and that the police need a warrant to enter it." Cato scholar Tim Lynch comments on this decision.

Primary Document

"This report is organized into six chapters. Chapter One contains this introduction. Chapter Two provides general background on the issues discussed in this report. For example, it contains descriptions of key terminology, the FBI's organizational structure, the so-called 'wall' that separated intelligence and criminal investigations in the FBI and the DOJ, the...

"This report is divided into six chapters. Chapter Two describes in detail the circumstances in which the FBI used exigent letters and other informal requests to obtain telephone records from the three on-site communications service providers. This chapter also contains our analysis of each of these methods for obtaining telephone records and other...

"We examined the type of information that has been obtained through the use of pure Section 215 orders and how that information has been used and disseminated in national security investigations. We found no instance where the information obtained from a Section 215...

Prior to the Revolutionary War, the English King issued writs of assistance to his officers in the colonies. These warrants gave their executors search and seizure authority, but named no offense, were executable by any officer of the crown, lasted indefinitely and provided no other protections. James Otis calls the writs "the worst instrument of arbitrary power."...

This hearing includes testimony and dialogue on the issues involving the Fourth Amendment and National Security during the War on Terror.

"The Fourth Amendment provides that the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against...

This particular Fourth Amendment case poses an interesting scenario, as the votes on the decision were not along normal liberal/conservative lines. The case in question involved a warrantless police search of an individual's car in which illegal drugs were discovered. The court...

This case revolved around a traffic stop which eventually led to a pat-down and the discovery of a weapon. The Supreme Court determined that a search such as this was not in violation of the individual's Fourth Amendment rights, and was in fact necessary for the...

This case, decided by the United States Supreme Court, dealt with the constitutionality of warrant-less arrests for misdemeanor crimes, in this case, not wearing a seatbelt. Justice David Souter delivered the majority opinion, saying that the Fourth Amendment does not forbid law enforcement officers from making an arrest for a misdemeanor...

As the title suggests, this memo deals with the intricacies of "no-knock" warrants. The memorandum lays out the limits and meanings of the Fourth Amendment, and then describes Supreme Court precedent in dealing with the matter.

"The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (or BSA, or otherwise known as the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act) requires U.S.A. financial institutions to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial...

This case centered around a law enforcement response to a domestic violence complaint. When the owner of the house informed the police officer that his...

This case is part of the legal cannon regarding warrant requirements. It defines probable cause and lays down the requirements for particularity and evidence. The case arose when New York issued a warrant to police officers to "bug" a suspect's house under a law that only required "reasonable ground to believe that evidence of crime may be thus obtained...

Blackstone's work is considered the most authoritative statement of the pre-American Revolution common law. It influenced the American founding documents, and continues to be a persuasive legal authority in the United States and other common law jurisdictions.

In regards to the Fourth Amendment, this Supreme Court case, written by Chief Justice William H. Taft,  established the Carroll Doctrine, otherwise known as the automobile exception. In writing the the majority opinion, Chief Justice Taft argued that that it was permissible for law enforcement officers to execute warrantless searches on automobiles, so long as...

James Kent was an American legal scholar. Widely popular, his Commentaries consist of a series of lectures on the history of law, the American Constitution, federal and municipal law, and laws concerning persons and property.

The reader must not expect to find in these pages any novel views, and novel constructions of the Constitution.

In this selection from William Blackstone's magnum opus, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Sir Blackstone discusses the legal concept of arrests and warrants. This section is important as it provides much of the historical and legal background behind the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

"The Court concludes that the compulsory, secret, and unreviewable production of information required by the FBI's application of 18 U.S.C 2709 violates the Fourth Amendment, and that the non-disclosure provision of the 18 U.S.C 2709(c) violates the First Amendment."

The plaintiffs in this case argued that a portion of the Patriot Act violated the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The particular portion of the Patriot Act with which the plaintiffs took issue dealt with the issuance of...

"In a complaint filed in April 2005, EPIC asked a federal court to force the FBI to disclose information about its use of expanded investigative authority granted by sunsetting provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. The agency agreed to quickly process EPIC's Freedom of Information Act request for the data, but did not comply with the timeline for even a standard FOIA...

This case, decided in England in 1765, established that any trespass unto another person's property must be justified by law through an official warrant handed down by a justice of the peace. According to this ruling, warrants must be specific in nature, and there must also be reasoning for the warrant. Lord Camden made it clear that if a warrant was issued without...

The Fourth Amendment is inextricably linked to intelligence gathering activities. In 1981, President Reagan declared that "[t]imely and accurate information about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions...

This sheet is a report on the civil liberties safeguards in the Patriot Act that were set to expire 4 years after passage of the bill. This sheet itemizes each safeguard and discusses why each provision must be renewed in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in order to continue to protect the United States and its citizens.

This fact sheet from the Department of Justice outlines the provisions from the original Patriot Act that were set to expire 4 years after passage of the act. It discusses key elements of counterterrorism efforts included in the Patriot Act and its reauthorization that are meant to stop terrorist attacks and protect American citizens.

"The Protect America Act modernized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to provide our intelligence community essential tools to acquire important information about terrorists who want to harm America."

"We all agreed that we needed legislation to make it harder for suspected terrorists to go undetected in this country. Americans everywhere wanted that.

But soon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this...

The President's remarks in the East Room at the White House just prior to signing the USA PATRIOT ACT. Bush declared, "These terrorists must be pursued; they must be defeated; and they must be brought to justice. And that is the purpose of this legislation."

The Terrorist Surveillance Program, authorized by President George W. Bush, was severely questioned by many Americans who wondered whether or not it violated their Fourth Amendment rights. In this...

Introduced by Rep. Michael Oxley (R-OH), this bill sought to "combat the financing of terrorism and other financial crimes, and for other purposes." Although never passed into law, parts of it were eventually adopted in the Patriot Act.

The petitioner in this case was arrested and indicted based on expired warrant. Due to the clerical error, the petitioner argued that his conviction was based on illegally obtained evidence. The Supreme Court, however, declared that "[w]hen police mistakes leading to an unlawful search are the result of isolated negligence attenuated from the search, rather than...

A summary of PATRIOT Act provisions with information on how the Act helps to counter terrorism efforts by investigating organized crime, creating new ways to share information, allowing the government to investigate issues more thoroughly, and penalizing terrorists more harshly.

This Supreme Court case dealt with the common law doctrine of police officers first knocking on the door and announcing their presence before said officers execute a search warrant and enter the home of a citizen. 

In this case, Detroit police officers were issued a warrant to search Booker T. Hudson's residence for drugs...

This piece of legislation was enacted in order to "reform the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government." Among other things, it amends the National Security Act of 1947 while also seeking to "to...

This letter, put to paper by the 2nd President of the United States, gives some of the legal and historical background surrounding the subject of writs of assistance in the colonies before the American Revolution.

"Where officers detected the odor of burning opium emanating from a hotel room, entered without a search warrant and without knowing who was there, arrested the only occupant, searched the room and found opium and smoking apparatus, the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, and a conviction for a violation of the federal narcotic laws...

This case is considered a landmark case in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence as it established the benchmark prerequisite test for warrants. According to Justice Stewart, who wrote the majority opinion for this case, the Fourth Amendment "protects people, not places" and that the rule of thumb for warrants is whether or not there is a "reasonable expectation of...

This U.S. Supreme Court decision rules that if police believe that evidence may be destroyed before they can secure a warrant, then an "exigent circumstance" has been established. At which point the police may simply enter and search a home or other private property. Civil libertarians are likely concerned that the police may use this ruling to justify many...

This case revolved around a warrant-less search in which police encountered illegal marijuana possession. The Kentucky Supreme Court determined that the police department had failed to follow the proper procedures in entering a house without a warrant. Since this decision was released, the case has continued on to the U.S. Supreme Court. A transcript of the oral...

"As the President has explained, since shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he has authorized the National Security Agency ('NSA') to intercept international communications into and out of the United States of persons linked to al Qaeda or...

"On behalf of the American Bar Association, I write to direct your attention to provisions of the House- and Senate-passed versions of H.R. 3199, the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 that are of concern to the ABA, and to urge consideration of our concerns during your efforts to reconcile the two versions of the bill...

This document contains letters from Richard Henry Lee, who discusses the Constitutional form of American government. He specifically highlights the ties between the Common Law doctrines of protections against government prosecution and the Fourth Amendment.

"Liberty, Order, and Justice represents a new and unique approach to the study of American government. It is based on the premise that in order to understand the dynamics of the American political system, the inquiring reader must first become familiar with the constitutional framework that shapes and controls the political process. In other words,...

"We consider whether the government may employ random, suspicionless container searches in order to safeguard mass transportation facilities from terrorist attack. The precise issue before us is whether one such search regime, implemented on the New York City...

This case is considered a landmark case because prior to this case, the exclusionary rule applied only to federal cases. Through 14th Amendment Due Process, the exclusionary rule was incorporated into the states. This prevents the prosecution from using evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. This case overturned Wolf v. Colorado.

This article, written by John Adams, is one of the earliest incarnations of the fourth amendment.

"In an action brought by a former suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings and his family claiming that several provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as amended by the PATRIOT Act were unconstitutional, judgment for...

"On the evening of August 11, 1967, local law enforcement officials of Pike County, Kentucky, entered Alan and Margaret McSurely's home and seized a huge quantity of books, papers, and other personal effects. The officials arrested the McSurelys and charged them with violation of Kentucky's anti-sedition statute. Thus began the McSurelys' seventeen-year odyssey...

"Amends the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 to extend through February 28, 2011, provisions: (1) granting roving surveillance authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) where the court finds that the actions of the target may thwart the identification of a specified person or other persons (by using multiple...

This decision, written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, dealt with the question of whether highway sobriety checkpoints violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. By a vote of 6-3, the court decided that checkpoints along state highways do not violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendments, as the state governments have a strong interest in curbing drunk driving...

"In the District of Columbia, officers without a warrant knocked on the door of petitioner's apartment and upon his inquiry, 'Who's there?' replied in a low voice, 'Police.' Petitioner opened the door but quickly tried to close it, whereupon the officers broke the door, entered, arrested petitioner and seized marked bills which were later admitted as evidence over petitioner's objection at a...

This piece of legislation is cited as "AN ACT To promote the national security by providing for a Secretary of Defense; for a National Military Establishment; for a Department of the Army, a Department of the Navy, and a Department of the Air Force; and for the coordination of the activities of the National Military Establishment with other departments and agencies...

"Written by Elbridge Gerry, member of the Philadelphia Convention from Massachusetts, and one of the number who refused to sign the Constitution, for reasons given in his letter to the presiding officers of the Massachusetts legislature ...." Gerry uses this document to present some of his objections to the Constitution, many of which centered around the lack of a Bill of Rights. Item number...

In the tenth chapter of James Wilson's magnum opus, Lectures on Law, Wilson elaborates and provides commentary on the process by which the government pursues, arrests, and prosecutes criminals in accordance to Common Law and Constitutional Principles.

The Olmstead case is one of the most infamous Fourth Amendment cases. The incriminating evidence was obtained electronically without a warrant. The Supreme Court decided that a search and seizure did not occur because a physical trespass did not occur. This precedent has since been overruled.

"Lieber discusses the nature of civil liberty, its history, the rule of law, parliament, the independence of the judiciary, and includes a number of English, American, and French constitutional documents."

This speech in the House chamber details why Representative McClintock withdrew his support from the Patriot Act. McClintock first recounts the circumstances leading up to the creation of the Fourth Amendment, and then relates an anecdote from Russia which demonstrates the importance of the Fourth Amendment.

"Recent media revelations that the President authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect signals intelligence ... from communications involving U.S. persons within the United States, without obtaining a warrant or court order, ... raise numerous questions...

Senator Thomas Daschle (D-SD) introduced this bill to the Senate, which was supposed to "deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes." Although it never passed, some of its provisions were incorporated into the Patriot Act.

"An Act to clarify that individuals who receive FISA orders can challenge nondisclosure requirements, that individuals who receive national security letters are not required to disclose the name of their attorney, that libraries are not wire or electronic communication service providers unless they provide specific services, and for other purposes."

This case revolved around a school strip-search of a 13-year-old girl for her alleged possession of ibuprofen. Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the high court, declaring that "[b]ecause there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were...

"The purpose of this publication is to provide Federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors with systematic guidance that can help them understand the legal issues that arise when they seek electronic evidence in criminal investigations.

The...

"Peter Semayne held a house in common with George Beriford, who died, leaving his goods in the house. Semayne also held a statute-staple, a type of bond securing a debt from Beriford. Semayne sought a writ to secure Beriford's lands...

This selection is from St. George Tucker's legal commentary and discussion on Sir William Blackstone's commentaries, specifically regarding arrests and warrants. Tucker was an American jurist and applied Blackstone's ideas and concepts directly to American law.

Speech made by Senator Russ Feingold on the Senate Floor before passage of the Patriot Act. The sole senator to vote against the Patriot Act, Senator Feingold spells out his reasons for opposing the legislation and offers amendments to the bill. One of the reasons Senator Feingold gives for his opposition has to do with the Fourth Amendment. According to Feingold,...

"Suspicion that a person is engaged in violations of the prohibition law, confirmed by the odor of whisky and by peeping through a chink in a garage standing adjacent to his dwelling and part of the same premises, will not justify prohibition officers in breaking into the...

This case is considered a landmark Fourth Amendment case as it codified the law enforcement tactic of a "stop and frisk" search, colloquially known as a "Terry Stop."

In this case, a plain-clothed police officer witnessed two men behaving suspiciously. After identifying himself as a police officer, he stopped the men...

Although Frank Mylar admits to being a supporter of President George W. Bush, he respectfully questions the constitutionality of some of the provisions in the Patriot Act. Mylar is particularly concerned about the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens and implies that the Patriot Act strikes at the heart of the safeguards established in it.

"Following the December 2005 disclosure by the New York Times of a highly-classified National Security Agency surveillance program that was authorized by President Bush shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, there has been a...

"During the Carter administration, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a new federal court to approve electronic surveillance of citizens and resident aliens alleged to be acting on behalf of a foreign power. Until now, the FISA court granted surveillance authority if foreign intelligence was the primary purpose of an...

This document presents information about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, a security measure intended to help track terrorist information. The document poses common objections to the measure, one of which is the idea that "NSA activities violate the Fourth...

"Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to state that nothing under its definition of 'electronic surveillance' shall be construed to encompass surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.

Allows the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and...

"The USA PATRIOT Act passed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It flows from a consultation draft circulated by the Department of Justice, to which Congress made substantial modifications and additions. The stated purpose of the Act is to enable...

"The great end of men's entering into society being the enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety, and the great instrument and means of that being the laws established in that society; the first and fundamental positive law of all commonwealths is the establishing of the legislative power; as the first and fundamental natural law, which is to govern even the legislative itself, is the...

In this particular case, FBI officials relied on permission from an individual involved in a bribery case rather than a warrant to set up a secret video camera in a hotel room. The case revolved around whether or not this warrantless evidence was...

This case dealt with the government's ability to use electronic surveillance with a warrant, in the interest of domestic security. The Court had to balance the legitimate government interest of preventing domestic attacks with the privacy concerns of citizens. The Court decided that the searches themselves may be reasonable, but the Fourth Amendment requires an...

Complete text of the 2005 reauthorization of Patriot Act provisions as Public Law 109-177.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted in 1776, heralds the inherent rights of man--rights the protection of which provides citizens the motivation to rebel against an unjust government.

"Rather than issuing the summons required by Virginia law, police arrested respondent Moore for the misdemeanor of driving on a suspended license. A search incident to the arrest yielded crack cocaine, and Moore was tried on drug charges. The trial court declined to suppress the evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds. Moore was convicted. Ultimately, the Virginia...

This case resulted in the creation of the "exclusionary rule", meaning that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible in trial. In this case, Marshals entered Mr. Weeks' house and discovered letters incriminating him. They did not have a warrant. The Court claimed that without the exclusionary rule, "the protection of the Fourth...

John Wilkes was a member of parliament who printed anonymous pamphlets criticizing the King. The king issued a general warrant to discover the creator of these pamphlets. Wood was charged with executing the warrant. The court ruled in favor of Wilkes, stating the power of general warrants is "totally subversive of the liberty of the subject… [and] of the most...

As the title implies, this document makes more amendments to President Reagan's...

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